Analysis of "My Papa's Waltz"
By Theodore Roethke
This poem has a kept form. Even at a glance, it has a set form. It consists of four quatrains, each line being an iambic tritameter. The poem is about a young boy waltzing with his father. One can assume that the speaker is a young boy, or perhaps the poet reminiscing his youth. The father dances around in a haphazard manner, knocking over pans in the kitchen. Upon first glance, the tone is humorous. The picture one immediately forms is rather comical with the boy clinging on for dear life as his chuckling father spins him round and round, making a mess in the kitchen while the mother looks on discontentedly. However, the line, "whiskey on your breath could make a small boy dizzy" suggests the father's drunkedness and "at every step you missed my right ear scraped buckle" suggests the dance was not an altogether joyful one. Lines such as "hung on like death", and "beat time on my head" are might even lead the reader to think the father is abusive of the boy. Indeed, the satirical tone of this poem suggests that the speaker is somewhat critical of his father. The whiskey smell, the roughness, the inconsiderate and reckless actions are under scrutiny. The mother's frowning countenance suggests she too is rather unhappy with the scene. However, the winning tone of the poem is the light and comical one. The constant rhythm throughout the poem gives it a light beat, like a waltz; the reader feels like s/he is dancing. The rhyme pattern of the poem is between the first-third lines and second-fourth lines in the quatrain and this is kept throughout the poem. Stresses on words such as dizzy and easy and buckle and knuckle gives the poem a rather playful feel. The last line of the poem, "waltzed me off to bed still clinging to your shirt" infers the boy in very much dependent on his father and shows despite the elements of criticism, a father-son relationship based, at least partly on love.
He was born...
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